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Common Humanity
with Dana Belletiere, LICSW, MSED

Be On Purpose

Into The Light: Reflections on 2019



Sonyuser/Pixabay

We are moving away from the darkness and into the light. 

Winter Solstice (December 21st) became my favorite holiday the year that I started attending my friend David’s annual Solstice party, where people gathered together, cozy and contemplative, to reflect on the past year, light a candle, eat, drink, and sit by the fire. The celebration was simple - no gifts, no prescribed meals, no fancy outfitting. Simple and true, Solstice stood out...


Compassion

Call the ‘Wambulance’: Three Reasons We Shame One Another (And Why We Should Stop)


In the therapy world, our ears become attuned to our own distinct language, one that we sometimes forget is our own. We throw around terminology like “transgenerational trauma” and “stress mechanisms” and forget that the rest of the world doesn’t routinely speak that way. We insulate ourselves with these terms, and tend to understand one another from the lens that is therapy-speak.

As a result, we sometimes also become hyper-sensitive to the rough-and-tumble language of the general public, the gruff verbiage that is thrown around all around us. The language of 2019 American zeitgeist is shame-laden, and unapologetically so. It’s everywhere, it’s getting worse, and, to the sensitive ears of this therapist, it’s an unhealthy mess.


Anxiety

How To Set Boundaries And Take Care Of Guilt During the Holiday Season 

Free-Photos/Pixabay

Your kids have been sick, money is tight, and you’ve determined that this holiday season, travel just isn’t in the cards. Or maybe you aren’t able to afford the gifts that are expected for all your cousins. Perhaps you’re emotionally drained and can’t rally to make it to that office party. Or you’ve heroically mustered the colossal courage to tell your in-laws to go easy on the gift-giving for the grandkids this year....


Anxiety

Let’s Just Say It: The Holidays Are Hard, And We Need To Set Some Boundaries.


Yesterday, my husband explained to me that I am not a “joiner.” This was his response when I asked very sincerely, “Wait, am I a Scrooge? Am I Bah-humbugging all over my friends’ and family’s holiday cheer?”. Yes, he immediately responded, then modified his response to something a bit more palatable - hence the “not a joiner” explanation. 

 However it’s spun by my husband, here’s the deal: I am not a big fan of the holiday season. I’ll gladly embrace the pretty lights and tasty beverages and coziness and good cheer, but their attachment to a collective fixed point on our calendar is not worth the unnecessary additional stress that accompanies them.  Really, those things are available to us at any time, if we want them.


Be Together

The Whole Thing Counts


In the therapy room recently, a client shared her experience of the loss of a close family member. She reported that her grief, raw and tender, felt especially intense because the relationship had not been optimum when the person had passed. Because of this, she also carries guilt, remorse, and regret, along with the heaviness of her grief. 

As she spoke, I was reminded of the loss of my Nana several years ago. When it became apparent that Nana was falling ill and close to passing, I drove from New Hampshire to Pennsylvania to visit her. While we were out for lunch, my Nana - always keen, snarky, and sharp as a tack - persistently called me by someone else’s name. For the bulk of the visit, she didn’t know who I was or why we were eating together. She was confused, and even seemed nervous. I left the visit feeling profoundly sad and did not see my Nana alive again - she passed a month later. 


Compassion

Your Very Own Monster-In-A-Box


Therapists come up with all sorts of terminology to name this and that - we work with the same problems and ideas repeatedly, and need images and language to describe human experience. Sometimes we come up with our own labels and concepts. The Monster-in-a- box is one of mine.

The Monster is the thing that we are carrying around with us that we are desperate to fix or change about ourselves, and everybody has one (most of us have many).  Anxiety, depression, fear, anger, and shame are all Monsters, and there are countless others. The Monster is in a box that we carry around with us at all times and, when the Monster expresses itself, it attempts to escape the box. We are frequently desperate to smoosh our Monster back into its box, so as to cease whatever ruckus it might be kicking up at the moment. 


Be On Purpose

Therapy Is My Calling, But Writing Is Nurturing My Soul


 

Like many of my colleagues that feel deeply connected to the practice of psychotherapy, I believe that I was built for this kind of work. When in the therapy room, I feel capable, confident, and clear - this is what I have always done; this is what I do.  When I attend trainings on methods and ideas that spark my interest, I feel more excited than anytime else in my life, ever. Psychotherapy is my thing. I love it and I’m good at it. 



Be On Purpose

Is “Powering Through It” Really A Good Thing?


 

I recently received a text citing a friend doing something that was hard for him, and struggling with it. “It’s ok, though,” said the text, “he’s powering through it.” 

“Blech,” I thought to myself. Then I typed “Is that really actually good, though?".  And then I deleted it, because nobody was asking for my opinion and it wasn’t time to start a whole big thing over text. And now I’m writing a blog post about it. So here it is:

I hate the term “powering through.” It’s right up there with “snowflake” and “get over it” as my least favorite unhelpful things to say to or about someone. And looking around the therapy world, people seem to be “powering through” stuff left and right. Am I missing something about how great this supposedly is? 

Here’s why I think we should reconsider the achievement that is “powering through it”:


Communication

As We Move Through Life, Can We Really Have It All?


 

There is a unique grief to the end of my thirties. 

In many ways, this decade has been liberating and exciting. Like many people of my generation, I’ve finally hit a stride in my career that includes feeling both competent and skilled and fairly compensated for my work. I live in a home with someone I love that is much more than adequate (both the home and the human, really). I feed myself things that I like, and I wear things that I like, and I’m generally able to afford all of these things. It is not lost on me that these are all extravagant privileges for which I have immense gratitude. 


Be On Purpose

Shout Yourself Out Loud.


 

I have a new favorite show. It’s called Modern Love, it’s on Amazon, and it’s based on the Modern Love column from the New York Times. It’s moving and it’s lovely.

In one episode, Anne Hathaway plays a woman with bipolar disorder navigating relationships and work as best she can while swinging between her extreme mood states. As she loses a potential dating prospect and her job, she discusses how she’s hidden her mental illness throughout her life as a means of benefitting from the brilliance of her highs, while concealing her lows. This results in a life punctuated by successes, but ultimately defined by the failure to sustain any of them, including human relationships. Realizing this, and desperate to be known, she finally divulges her bipolar diagnosis to a coworker, who assures her that she would still like to pursue a friendship with her. Anne’s character says, “It’s like an elephant that’s been standing on top of me just took one foot off of my chest.” 

That sounds about right to me.